I spent 40 weeks after college looking for a job and now being on the other side of the hiring fence I’d like to offer some young up and comers a few tidbits that hopefully help you land your next summer internship, job after college, new position.
Though these notes are geared toward college and young post-college applicants, they’re applicable to most scenarios.
1. Work Experience Trumps Course Work
Class and grades are good, but they’re only 3 lines on your resume: Education Institution, Expected graduation date and GPA. 2 lines…if your GPA is not a highlight.
If you are applying for any type of substantive internship/job at a decent company, the hiring manager is not a fool. They know that when you list skills that you learned in a college lab course, you probably spent 2 weeks max on the subject/lab technique. By extension, they also can easily infer that if you don’t list your GPA on your resume, you probably did not do so well in that class!
Contrast that with a research associate internship where you might be doing the same gel electrophoresis for a whole quarter but at least you know how to do it right and how to do it well. Learning a single skill with depth over a period time signals to an employer you can learn and are teachable.
Volunteer for a research lab/clinic/sales that will teach you a skill and let you hone it. That skill becomes your calling card for an internship. The internship becomes proof that you can be trusted in a working environment for a job. That job leads to others. You pay your dues somewhere…start early.
2. A Resume is Prime Real Estate
A smart guy said the Presidential elections are won and lost on one square foot of real estate…up in the head. Resumes are like that too in that it is prime real estate. In less than 1 sq ft of real estate you have to convince someone to give you a chance. That 1 piece of papers starts the conversation to what could be a $10/hr job to a $60+K/year job. Why waste the white space?
For some this is the only “in” at a company so with the limited medium that you have, find a way to augment it. Do not waste space telling a hiring manager something that every other person will as well. “Great at time management”, “Self starter”, “team player”, “fun to be around”. These are all things that can be shown without eating up valuable space on your resume.
“Proficient at handling multiple projects at the same time” – Telling
A resume that shows a part time job/internship, a fraternity/sorority/fellowship leadership, and course work shows an employer.
3. Think Like a Hiring Manager
A hiring manager always asks themselves these implicit questions about an applicant and looks for clues in your resume:
Can I trust this person? Who has trusted this person with a task in the past?
Can this applicant learn quick enough?
An employer is looking for specific attributes in a candidate but many are universal. Imagine you are hiring somebody to do a job for you, what would you want to see on a resume? Employers are always looking for leadership, responsibility, technical skill, and honesty.
4. Your Resume Will Not Land You That Job
Resumes are like dating profiles, they exist to peak interest, get the conversation started, and remind the other person after the date who you were. From there it’s both parties’ job to find out if you are a match. Unfortunately, more than likely, the employer’s been through this process a lot more than you have.
The reality is that a resume only gets you to the door, your personality and knowledge close the deal when you land the interview. You do not often hear somebody landing a job offer with just a resume. That is because there’s more to the process than a sheet of paper. Be presentable, be amicable, be professional.
That puts some pressure off perfecting your resume doesn’t it?
5. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
Every job you do, every project you complete is an opportunity to build a relationship. Over time a resume transforms from being on paper to being in your network’s minds. Your friends, colleagues, and managers become your advocates and your verbal resumes. “hey I worked with him/her on so and so project and they did a great job. You can’t go wrong with this one”. conversely, do a bad job and you get a “avoid this one at all cost, this one time…”
As an extension of this, utilize your relationships to achieve the other 4 points. Find someone who’s sifted through a stack of resumes before and has hired people to give your resume some direction. Ask former managers and colleagues to vouch for you!